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By Devin Rose
For the past three years, two River Forest kids have been learning what it means to give back to their community. Carl Faust and Maeve Mascarenhas, both 8, helped plant an autumn blaze red maple tree on Monday afternoon at Keystone Park's new playground. The kids raised money for the tree by selling homemade ornaments over the holidays, said Carl's mom, Karen.
Karen Faust said this is the third year that the pair has donated funds to a local cause, an effort they're calling the Giving Project. The donations, which have ranged from $200 to $350, come from creating artistic pieces they can sell to family members and friends. The pair then researches charities before deciding where the money will go.
The first year, proceeds from their sales of homemade bookmarks went to the Animal Care League, Faust said. The next year they donated to the Oak Park-River Forest Food Pantry after selling handmade note cards rolled with printer's ink. This time around, they cut out clay shapes, then fired, painted and sold them at holiday parties and at school for a couple of dollars each. The charms can be used as Christmas tree ornaments, key chains or backpack decorations.
"The projects always center around their love of art," said Faust, adding that it's important to give the kids an opportunity to contribute to their community. This year they knew they wanted to do something involving a tree, which was purchased and planted through the River Forest Park District with their donated dollars.
"We're glad they approached us," said Mike Sletten, the park district's executive director. The recent upgrade to playground equipment at Keystone made it a good time to put the tree in. Sletten said the recent high temperatures have delayed the rest of the landscaping, but more will be done soon.
The kids learned through their research how trees produce oxygen and absorb greenhouse gases, and that some parts of the world don't have any. The donation to a local agency helps them see the effect they can have close to home, Faust said. In previous years, they visited animals at the ACL and got a tour of the food pantry.
"They learn a lot about who needs help and how what they're doing has a direct impact," Faust said, noting that Carl and Maeve are already planning next year's project.